Running your own home business is in many ways a dream job. You are your own boss so you can get your own hours, make all of the decisions, and never need to worry about upper management breathing down your neck. The downside is that home business owners are responsible for everything: planning, execution, networking, public relations, and marketing. That last one can be a killer.
Just because your business is not an Internet business doesn’t mean you can ignore the Web. The Internet is the most cost-effective and effort-efficient way to reach a wide audience — anyone who believes otherwise is throwing away a huge opportunity for promotion. In fact, a properly executed online promotion campaign can result in a boom for your business.
Convinced yet? Here are some simple ways that anybody can utilize the Internet for some affordable business exposure.
Blog, Blog, Blog
Christian touches on some great tips for starting your first business from home and one of the most important steps to take is cultivating an online presence. Most companies nowadays have a website with static information (location, contact information, etc.) and if you don’t have one of those, you should get on it right away.
But you can take it one step further by starting and maintaining a business blog.
Never blogged before? That’s okay. Read up on James’s beginners guide to starting a WordPress blog and you’ll be up and running in no time. Scared or intimidated by the idea of blogging? Don’t be. Read Yaara’s tips on overcoming the fear of blogging and you’ll be well on your way to being a great blogger.
Blogging is essential these days because it provides a central location for business updates, announcements, and public relations. Potential customers can learn more about you and your business through your blog posts — indeed, blogs are great for developing personal connections with people without needing to be face-to-face.
After you’ve been blogging for a while, you may also want to consider guest blogging, which requires you to post guest articles on other blogs in exchange for a bit of publicity and a link back to your own blog. You’ll need to write high quality content that’ll attract potential customers, of course, but this is a great way to expand your userbase.
Create Viral Content
There’s a reason why “viral content” is named what it is — just like with any true outbreak, it spreads like wildfire and reaches an incalculable number of people in the blink of an eye. If you can create some sort of viral content that’s associated with your business, brand, or website, you’ll essentially be receiving tons of free advertising.
That’s why a lot of companies today are caught up in “viral campaigns” and such. Bottom line: it works, so you should give it a try as well.
The most obvious example is a viral video on YouTube. YouTube makes it very easy to share videos with friends and the goal is to create a video (or video series) that generates a lot of YouTube views and shares. Other examples can include infographics, comics, and maybe even gimmicky website designs.
The tricky part of viral content is that nobody can guarantee virality. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, you just need to try again. The best rule is to create content that you yourself would feel compelled to share with others. After all, if you don’t feel compelled to share your own content, why would others?
The term “social network” describes the perfect vehicle for spreading your influence: “social” because word of mouth is the most effective form of advertising and you want people to share your business with others; “network” because each person that you reach is an opportunity for reaching even more people, meaning exponential growth.
It cannot be denied that Facebook and Twitter are two of the most viral social networks in existence. The former is the largest social network in the world. The latter is designed to encourage users to “retweet” each other, which leads to blazing fast propagation of information — fast enough that a business announcement could circle the globe in mere minutes.
For more information, check out Craig’s steps for promoting your business on Facebook and Andra’s ways to use Twitter for business.
But social networks also have another use: seeding your userbase. The hardest part of any business is the beginning because nobody has heard of you and people need to be convinced that your business is worth their attention. Use social networks to rally your friends for help in getting your name out there.
Ever heard of Kickstarter? As the largest crowdfunding website in the world, it has been used by hundreds of thousands of users to generate capital for projects and developments. If you haven’t considered using it, you really should – even if you don’t need the money. (But who doesn’t need more money?)
We’ve profiled Kickstarter projects in the past and those articles would be a great start for learning what’s involved with the process and what to expect from it all: Inside Kickstarter with Pressy and what happened afterwards. Also check out these successful 2013 Kickstarter projects.
The important thing about crowdfunding is that it generates buzz and hype and gets your name out there. If your business plan is compelling enough, passionate users will give you 110% of their support. They’ll willingly advertise on your behalf by word of mouth.
Just be aware that a lot of work goes into a successful Kickstarter campaign but it’ll all be well worth it in the end. Again, even if you don’t need the money, you should try it. The exposure is what you want. And if you don’t like Kickstarter for some reason, there are plenty of crowdfunding alternatives available.
Does anybody remember Yelp? I haven’t heard much buzz about the service over the past year or so but it’s still running strong and can prove extremely useful for small business owners. In fact, Yelp’s slogan is “the best way to find great local business.”
A lot of people think Yelp is only useful for finding restaurants but that’s not true. Well, it is useful for finding restaurants and fooderies, but it’s also great for finding pretty much any sort of business in your area. I’ve used it in the past to find car mechanics, pet stores, and florists. If you aren’t on Yelp, you’re missing out on a lot of potential customers.
For those of you who own home businesses, what other tricks do you have up your sleeves for maximizing your online presence? Share them with us in the comments!